On International Womens Day,
Solidarity in Chesapeake Country
by Mandy Johnson
Fahima Vorgetts just got back from Afghanistan. Speaking to women of Chesapeake Country, she recalled with pain what it was like to visit the once-beautiful cities that have been demolished together with the hope of the people who live there. Vorgetts an Annapolis business woman who owns The Moon Cafe and Aaryana Imports visited Afghanistan to try and help Afghan women become more self-sufficient. She shared her experiences at the March 8 forum convened by the Enehey Investigative Research Group to celebrate International Womens Day.
Fifty-three years ago, the United Nations passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, granting equal rights to women as well as men. For several years, the Enehey Group has sponsored the International Womens Day observance in Annapolis to promote awareness of human rights violations against women.
For all the seriousness of subjects discussed, the forum was positive and lively. Laughter erupted into the crowd when local sculptor and educator Deborah Banker displayed a prototype of Chainsaw Debbie, the first in her Women Action Figures series. The doll was the hit of the evening. Banker dryly noted that this feminine action figure, unlike many on the market, can stand alone.
Stand alone could all the speakers in the forum, women as diverse in their occupations as in their ethnicity. Opening was local attorney Rene C. Swafford, who also chairs the Anne Arundel County Minority Business Enterprise Committee. On the minus side, she talked about the challenges of working in a male-dominated profession as an African American woman balancing career and family with community leadership. On the plus, she encouraged women to create business opportunities for themselves by networking, returning to school and mentoring.
Next came a Native American descendent of Pochahontas. Rose Powhatan, an educator and also an elder of the Pamunkey people, blessed the audience in the Alonquian language. She spoke of the disenfranchisement of women within the tribal structure of the Pamunkey people, despite the cultures matriarchal lineage.
A local detective from Baltimore Citys Police Department and teacher at the University of Maryland closed the forum.
On the front-line of law enforcement, Detective Risa Powell faces the tragedies of life daily in one of our nations leading combat zones. Assigned to the Crimes Against Persons section, Sexual Offenses Unit, Powell described the types of assault, evidence collection, sources of DNA, hospital SAFE Programs and arrest and apprehension of suspects.
The final speaker for the evening Catherine Salam, a clinical instructor at the University of Maryland Department of Child, Women and Family Health, spoke of the United Nations global commitment to reducing maternal mortality and the Safe Motherhood Initiative Quilt Project.
At the end of the forum, a candle was lit to honor women everywhere. Under its light, the ancient tradition of story-telling continued in a poem by Ann Valliant:
I am daughter, sister, mother in thousands of generations of women, women whose skills created peaceful and bountiful civilizations, women who preserved remnants of our knowledge when the civilizations passed.
Thus stories plant the seeds of change.
Mandy Johnson is the director and founder of The Enehey Group, an investigative research company specializing in human rights issues and pre-trial investigation for law firms.